Church of Saints Simon and Helen, also known as the Red Church, is a neo-Romanesque church designed by polish architects Tomasz Pajzderski and Władysław Marconi. It was built between 1905-1910. The bricks for its walls were sourced from Częstochowa, whilst the roof tiles came from Włocławek. Its construction was financed by Edward Woyniłłowicz, a prominent Belarusian civic activist. The church was named and consecrated in memory of Woyniłłowicz's deceased children, Szymon and Helena.
In 1903, about 2,000 Minsk's Catholics wrote a petition to local authorities asking for a site to start building new catholic church. This request was satisfied, and construction started in 1905. The church was consecrated on September 20, 1910. On December 21, 1910, the church was opened.
In 1923, the church was robbed by the Red Army and in 1932 it was closed down by the Soviet authorities and transferred to the State Polish Theatre of the BSSR. Before the Second World War, the church was rebuilt into a cinema.
In 1941, the German occupation administration returned to building to its original use as a church, but after the war it was again used as a cinema, called the 'Soviet Belarus.'
In 1990, the building was returned to the Catholic Church. Since then it was renovated, and became an important centre of religious, cultural and social life. It also became a centre for the revived Belarusian Greek Catholic Church.
In 2006, Edward Woyniłowicz, the church's donator who died in 1928 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, was reburied here.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.